Our obsession with Mughal era architecture

Recently, the state budget of Uttar Pradesh left “Taj Mahal” out and proposed setting up of the Ramayana, Buddhist and Krishna circuit to boost cultural heritage of Uttar Pradesh and then that of Bharat. There was considerable saffron-bashing of this move both at national and international level but nonetheless, this move requires an analysis on its merit.

Few weeks back only the UP CM said in one of his speeches that gifting Taj Mahal minarets replica to visiting leaders of other states is not Bharatiya culture; at that time, something that had been long etched in my mind came to the forefront. Why is Taj Mahal portrayed as an epitome of architectural marvel, or why has Taj Mahal for so long since independence enjoyed a royal treat? Is Taj Mahal the best that the Bharatiya culture, which is lauded for its ancient civilizational roots of thousands of years, had to offer in terms of architecture, engineering or breath-taking marvel? Even when the ‘Wonders of the World’ program was launched and then the ‘New Wonders of the World’, Taj Mahal was pushed to be Bharat’s choice by its elite class, especially the media and celebrities.

Now if someone simply tried to compare our ancient temples, caves, monolith rock-cut structures with the Mughal era architecture, they will only find that our architectural culture capacity has only degraded and not upgraded and construction of Taj Mahal was relatively simpler.

The great Kailash Temple, Ellora deserves special mention because the Baroda copper plate inscription (812-813 CE) states that,” the king constructed a temple so wondrous that even the gods and the architect were astonished”. Not only its architecture, which one has to see to believe that such a marvel exists (every Bharatiya must be proud of it), but also the engineering features of this monolithic rock cut structure has complex stairways to connect multiple levels, underground passages, elaborate balcony, drainage and rainwater harvesting system! All this dates back to the 8th century.

Kailash temple at Ellora, Courtesy: Rediff.com
Courtesy: http://www.wondermondo.com

Like that we have many other examples like the Meenakshi Temple, Ruins of Hampi, Rani Ki Vav, Golconda fort and many others which depict distinct and awe-inspiring engineering feats!

It’s high time that we realize and appreciate the great wonderful facets of Bharatiya culture and not restrict ourselves to the Sultanate/Mughal era, and explore and advertise the forgotten ones. Recently #WalkToTemple campaign helped spread awareness of temples in social media, but we need much more in the future (also need to include ancient structures).

I am not against preservation of a world heritage site like Taj Mahal but we do need to expand our heritage appreciation beyond medieval times, and if not more, then at least equal weightage would be appreciated.

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About the Author

Sangeet Vijay Sagar
A cog in the wheel of Dharmachakra of our glorious nation. An avid quizzer since childhood, Metallurgical Engineer from NIT Raipur, multilingual and believes in debating on critical issues.